Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Radio One More Time: The Radio One Roadshow

Holiday, holiday, holiday time
Holiday, holiday, holiday time
with the Radio One [plonk] Roadshow

Once, a fixture in the British summer as immovable as donkey cruelty and bingo, the Radio One Roadshow could be seen as an object lesson in the BBC connecting with audiences - back before that became the sort of thing the BBC felt it should be doing. Indeed, back in the Roadhsow's 70s and early 80s heyday, a suggestion that any other part of the BBC should roll up its trousers and go and down to Margate to share chips and a Who Can Put The Most Spaghetti Down Their Trousers contest with licence-fee payers would have gone down about as well as pitching a programme called Fuck Me I'm A Hairy Woman.

I never got to go to a Roadshow - for some reason, Radio One's journey along the South Coast would visit Eastbourne rather than what might have been thought of as the more obvious Brighton, and by the time I was old enough to announce plans to go along to Eastbourne unaccompanied the attraction of seeing Gary Davies on stage was no longer strong enough to tempt to me. I have to take it on trust, then, that the "fun starts at ten" as the traditional preshow trailer would have it. For me, the Roadshow never really started until it was "on air at eleven".

Yes, the greatest gift of the Roadshow was to cut down some of Simon Bates' airtime.

Summer after summer, Skegness after Blackpool, year after year, the Roadshow would follow its own rhythm through the summer. Each of the daytime DJs would take a week, and, consequently, the stretch of coast that happened to coincide with that week. For reasons that we could never quite figure, the Roadshow never ventured inland, apart from on Bank Holidays when it might deign to try out a country park for a "special". Maybe BBC bosses believed that the only way you could holiday in the UK was if you went to the seaside.

Each presenter would get to make the week their own by having their own mini-competition - if Steve Wright was involved it would probably feature a bucket of gunk - but the main competitions were set in stone.

There was, of course, the Smiley Miley one, where four audience members would be given the chance to guess exactly how far the Roadshow caravan had travelled since the last programme. I used to fantasise about following the lorry from one location to the next as a cunning way of cheating on this competition, although since the prize was a Radio 1 goody bag, it might not have been the most sensible use of petrol.

"Smiley Miley" was also the name given to the producer of the events - part of the vast panoply of semi-fictitious characters who do the work on Radio One - who, in between making the Roadshows, seemed to be fighting a never-ending war with the presenters to see who could pull the biggest stunt. This always seemed to end with Mike Read's car being dismantled and reassembled in his hotel room, a pointless feat that served only to point out that there are some things that simply don't work on radio.

The main competition element on the Roadshow, though, was Bits And Pieces. So crucial was Bits and Pieces to the success of the Roadshow that it's probably the only feature on the station to have warranted its own trailer - "One more record to Bits And Pieces."

It was nothing more than ten small snatches of recent records, edited together, which four audience members (every participatory opportunity on the Roadshow called for four competitors) did their best to identify, with the winner - of course - winning a goodie bag. The contents of a Roadshow goody bag were shrouded in secrecy, but it's a safe bet they were slightly thinner fare than you might expect in, say, an Oscars goody bag. (They did, of course, provide the inspiration for Mark Goodier's network nickname.)

The classic version of Bits And Pieces would be heralded with a jingle featuring the 1964 hit from where it took its name, allowing my Mum to develop a running joke of yelling out "The Dave Clarke Five" as her first answer every day through the Summer holidays. See, it wasn't just fun to be at the recordings.

Nowadays, Radio One chooses not to connect with the bucket-and-spade tradition, preferring instead the grand sweeping gesture of One Big Weekend, or endless trips to Ibizia - the latter having a sense of being less about getting in touch with the Radio One audience, more about choosing somewhere nice to broadcast from. And, yes, it's undeniable that with cheap flights from EasyJet and expensive flights from Ryanair disguised as cheap flights when you strip out the hidden charges, your average Radio One listener will now have a much wider playground to choose from for their holidays. But it would be nice to think the network could still find it in their budgets to go and do something for the people stuck at home in the seaside towns they forgot to shut down.

[Radio One More Time]


mrdiscopop said...

Nice piece - brings backa lot of memories (the twins from Neighbours in Bangor, Northern Ireland - woohoo!).

The reason the show always went to Eastbourne instead of Brighton is presumably because of the BBC's charter, and the "mission" to bring "live" music to places where pop stars would never dare tread.

karlt said...

That would certainly explain their visits to Mabelthorpe.

tomsmiled said...

Doesn't explain the summer roadshow to Aviemore in 1985, where I saw Bates-y 'perform' in front of an audience of "about ten thousand".. is what he said. I counted about 130 - the other 9,870 or so being added by Smiley Miley's sound effects box. Still, it was funny seeing Bates trying to dry-slope ski on the radio. Happy days.

James said...

I went to the roadshow once! Sadly it was towards the end of its life, if not the last year altogether. Moyles was in charge, with stellar musical guests Hepburn ('I Quit') and Frigid Vinegar ('Dogmanaut 2000'). I don't remember much about the show itself besides a Guess-The-Gargled-Tune contest, but I did get a cool Radio 1 rave-whistle. Later in the evening, the roadshow became a 'Dance Party' with proper DJs playing sets. Whilst I didn't go to this, I did manage to bump into Carl Cox on the beach.

And sorry Simon, but for this roadshow, they finally decided to hold it in Brighton :(

Dull anorak reminisence: In the 1990s, when they played songs during a roadshow programme, rather than stick a record on, they'd show the promo video on a big screen, then broadcast the sound from that video on air. This meant listeners would get all sorts of strange noises and talky bits in some tunes (like the sound of Phil Daniels' car screeching to a halt during Parklife).

Does anyone else remember the roadshow during the awkward mid-nineties changeover period? It made for interesting listening as they tried to juggle wacky old-guard japery with cool new DJs. Hearing voice-of-yoof Lisa I'Anson give a running commentary of someone being covered with lard and feathers will live for me for a while.

Andrew said...

Smiley Miley was a real person - wasn't he called Tony Miles or something?

Loved the Roadshow when i was a kid but never got on Bits and Pieces, that's one ambition that'll never be realised!

Loving these posts by the way but the Five 45s one doesn't seem to be working....

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